Archive of November 3, 2010

Peruvian archbishop reminds Catholics of the universal call to holiness

Piura, Peru, Nov 3, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren of Piura, Peru reminded Catholics that holiness is “the universal vocation of all” in his Nov. 1 homily for the feast of All Saints.

The archbishop recalled that All Saints' Day “invites us to contemplate our brothers and sisters who are now in the Kingdom of Heaven.” He said that “this should lead us to make greater efforts to take the Christian life seriously.

“In whatever state of life you find yourself, it is there you are called to be holy.”

Holiness is the “life of God made present in someone in all of its beauty, intensity and strength. We know that God is love, and therefore, a saint is someone who allows love to act in his life.  A saint is one who allows his life to be inflamed by the love of God.  For this reason, God sent us his Son Jesus, that we might follow him and make him present in our lives and in the lives of others,” Archbishop Eguren said.

“Only a saint can truly bring about the transformation our world needs,” he continued.  “Changes starts with us and then spreads to others.  The world will not change if I do not,” he said.

Referring to the gospel reading on the beatitudes, Archbishop Eguren said the passage provides a road map for our lives that satisfies our longings for the infinite and for happiness.

The archbishop concluded his homily calling on Catholics to entrust themselves to Mary, Queen of all Saints.

“We pray she inspire in us true desire for holiness and that she help us to remain faithful to her Son.”

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Ahead of weekend trip to Spain, Pope asks for prayers

Vatican City, Nov 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the Spanish cities Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona make final preparations for the Holy Father's arrival this weekend, the Pope has asked everyone to accompany him on the pastoral trip with "fervent prayer."

In his Spanish-language greeting during Wednesday's general audience, the Holy Father made the prayer appeal for his visit to Spain from Nov. 6-7. "I invite you to accompany me with your fervent prayer next weekend," he said, noting the two stops on the trip.

In Santiago de Compostela, the final destination of the "Way of St. James" pilgrimage route, he will be "joining pilgrims that arrive at the feet of the Apostle in this Holy Year," he said. Organizers are bracing for an estimated 200,000 people to swell the city for the Nov. 6 occasion.

The Holy Year is a jubilee celebration observed for an entire year every time the feast of St. James, July 25, falls on a Sunday.

The highlight of his schedule in Santiago will be the afternoon celebration of Mass in the square outside the city's cathedral.

The Holy Father also said that it is with "joy" that he will dedicate the church of the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) in Barcelona the following day, Nov. 7.

He is expected to speak about the profound meaning that can be found in the details of the "marvelous church,” which will be raised to the status of basilica by the Holy Father. Sagrada Familia is the creation of the late architect Antonio Gaudi, whose cause for beatification is currently being considered.

The Pope explained the underlying motive of his trip to the two significant Spanish destinations, saying, "I am going as a witness of the Risen Christ, with the desire of carrying to all his Word, in which can be found light to live with dignity and hope to build a better world."

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Pope Benedict speaks about sex abuse scandals in new book

Rome, Italy, Nov 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The world will have a more complete idea of Pope Benedict XVI's thoughts on sexual abuse in the Church when his interview with the German journalist Peter Seewald is published in a month.

With his book “Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and the Signs of The Times” due for release on Nov. 24, Ignatius Press has released some of the questions Seewald posed to the Pope.

Seewald met with Pope Benedict XVI during his summer vacation at the pontifical villa at Castel Gandolfo the last week in July. Their discussions over the course of that time are presented in the volume which "tackles head-on some of the greatest issues facing the world of our time," according to the publishing company.

One of the most difficult issues facing the Church this year was the revelation of sexual abuse of children by clergy and religious in Europe. The book not only presents Pope Benedict's thoughts on sexual abuse but also gives his answer about whether he thought about resigning over the scandals.

The revelations of abuse resulted in some calling for the Pope to resign for his supposed inaction in the face of abuse when he served as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and later as Pope.

In response, many rose to defend the Pope, including Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York. He said, "No one has been more vigorous in cleansing the Church of the effects of this sickening sin than the man we now call Pope Benedict XVI."

The Holy Father also takes on other complicated questions within the Church today, such as the celibacy of priests, contraception, women priests, same-sex relationships and Communion for the divorced and remarried.

Papal infallibility, the possibility of a Third Vatican Council and the question of whether or not genuine dialogue is possible with Islam are also confronted by the Pope in the wide-ranging series of questions that count nothing as taboo.

Ignatius Press says that all people—believers and unbelievers—will be fascinated by the content of the book, which documents "a lively, fast-paced, challenging, even entertaining exchange" between the two.

This is Seewald's third book-length interview with Joseph Ratzinger, but the first after his election to the papacy. The two previous volumes were “Salt of the Earth,” published in 1996, and “God and the World,” from 2002.

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UN pressures El Salvador to legalize abortion

San Salvador, El Salvador, Nov 3, 2010 (CNA) - Two pro-life leaders in El Salvador have condemned the recent pressure from the United Nations, urging the country to legalize abortion.

The president of the foundation Si a la Vida (Yes to Life), Regina Cardenal, told CNA that this kind of pressure is nothing new. She added that it is not uncommon for the U.N. to attempt to change a country's laws to permit abortions.

Last week the U.N. commission circulated a memo demanding El Salvador “take measures to prevent women who seek treatment in public hospitals from being reported by health care workers or administrators for the crime of abortion.”

Cardenal noted that “several years ago, the New York Times published a series of lies about the laws” in El Salvador, even alleging that women were being jailed for having abortions. “They said there were women who had been sentenced to 30 years.  However, we looked into it and there was not a single conviction.

“They spread lies because abortion is a business, and therefore the pressure is not going to end,” she added.

She also questioned the conduct of the director of the Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Women, Julia Evelyn Martinez, who pledged “to international organizations that she would review the laws that protect the unborn.”

“The country’s president, Mauricio Funes, disavowed her because he had no intention of ever changing the laws,” Cardenal added, referring to the “Brazilian Consensus” signed by Martinez.

The “Brazilian Consensus” is an international document signed in July 2010 at the 11th Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is organized by the U.N.  The document, which promotes abortion in Latin America and is constantly cited by feminist organizations, lacks any legal authority to impose the practice on countries in the region. Numerous countries, such as Chile, Costa Rica, Peru and Nicaragua have questioned the legal value of the accord.

Cardenal said it would be very difficult to change current law in El Salvador because it would imply “changing the Constitution—something very complicated at this point.”  The Salvadoran Constitution recognizes personhood from the moment of conception.

Salvadoran pro-life leader Georgina Rivas also told CNA: “If we don’t protect human life with appropriate care, how can we say we are protecting any manifestation of that life? The evidence of this profound error is that a woman’s freedom to harm her body, her psyche, her spirit and the most precious of gifts that she has - which is the life she carries in her womb - is being promoted.”

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Pro-life Republicans make significant gains in midterm election

Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - As Catholic voters appeared to break for Republican candidates, Election Day 2010 changed the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, several governorships and Senate seats.
Pro-life Democrats, especially those who voted for the comprehensive health care reform law backed by President Obama, suffered heavily, while pro-life Republicans gained.
Overall, Republicans are projected to pick up more than 60 seats in the House and have already exceeded the 218 seats needed to take over as the leaders of the House.
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to be named the Speaker of the House. He will be the second Catholic from the Republican Party to hold the position. He replaces another Catholic, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The health care bill may have played a role in the defeat of many self-described pro-life Democrats who voted for it.

In Pennsylvania, Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper lost to Mike Kelly while Rep. Paul Kajnorski lost to Lou Barletta. Ohio’s Rep. Charlie Wilson, in office for four years, lost to political novice Bill Johnson, while Rep. John Boccieri of Ohio lost to Jim Renacci. West Virginia Rep. Allan Mollohan lost his primary race to state legislator Mike Oliverio, who in turn lost to Republican David McKinley. Indiana’s Rep. Baron Hill lost to Todd Young.

Pro-life Democrats who supported the health care but still won reelection include West Virginia Rep. Nick Rahall, Rep. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio. Kaptur faced a Republican challenger whose campaign was significantly crippled by the revelation he was an historical re-enactor who wore Nazi uniforms.

Opposition to the health care bill did not save pro-life Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), who lost his race by an 18-point margin. But Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), a pro-lifer who opposed the health care legislation in part because of its inadequate abortion funding restrictions, took 70 percent of the vote against Republican challenger Michael Bendas.
Rep. Bart Stupak, Michigan Democrat who led the movement to add statutory abortion funding restrictions to the bill, retired from Congress after controversy over his compromise with a presidential executive order purporting to restrict abortion funding. His longtime Democratic seat went to Republican Dan Benishek, a pro-life physician whose Democratic challenger Gary McDowell also self-identified as pro-life.
Virginia Democrat Rep. Tom Perriello, a co-founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, lost to Republican Robert Hurt by about four percentage points. Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) lost to Steve Chabot, a Republican who reclaimed the seat he lost in 2008. Both supported the health care legislation.
The Democrat-leaning group Catholics United had pledged to raise $500,000 to support candidates such as Reps. Perriello, Boccieri, Dahlkemper and Driehaus. However, the Federal Election Commission website did not report any funds from the group being used in races and final data may not be available for several more weeks.
Also pouring money into campaigns around the country was the Susan B. Anthony List, which reported that it spent $11 million. The group, whose primary focus is electing pro-life women, spent $3.4 million on targeting pro-life Democrats who voted for the health care bill, and $2.3 million on electing pro-life women. SBA List argued that the health care bill funded abortion with federal dollars, echoing an argument made by the U.S. Catholic bishops.
The Democratic Party retained control of the U.S. Senate. Hard-line pro-abortion Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) held her seat against pro-life challenger Carly Fiorina. Nevada Republican Sharron Angle failed to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, while Republican Christine O’Donnell lost her race in Delaware by a significant margin.
However, pro-life candidates Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) won their Senate races.
In Pennsylvania the pro-life Pat Toomey appeared set to succeed pro-abortion Republican-turned-Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter, whom he previously challenged in the 2004 Republican primary. Then-Sen. Rick Santorum’s backing of Specter over Toomey is widely believed to have damaged Santorum’s failed 2006 re-election bid. Specter himself lost his 2010 Democratic primary to Congressman Joe Sestak.
Pro-life candidates also fared well in governor’s races. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.), Mary Fallin (R-Okla.), Nikki Haley (R-S.C.), Susana Martinez (R-N.M.) were winners backed by the Susan B. Anthony List. Outgoing Republican U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, a convert to Catholicism, handily won the governorship of Kansas.
The issue of same-sex “marriage” appeared to play a role in Iowa, where the state Supreme Court imposed it unanimously in 2009. All three Supreme Court justices on the ballot were rejected by the voters. A “Personhood Amendment” initiative in Colorado – which would have given personhood status in the state constitution to all humans “from the beginning of biological development”–garnered only about 30 percent of the vote, a slight improvement over its 2008 showing.
The role of Catholics in this election continues to be disputed, with some observers questioning whether the “Catholic vote” can still be said to exist. However, a CNN exit poll showed 44 percent of self-described Catholics voting for Democrats and 54 percent choosing Republicans. In the 2008 election, Democrats enjoyed a ten percentage point lead over Republicans among Catholics.

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Church in Cuba opens new seminary for first time in 50 years

Penalver, Cuba, Nov 3, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - In a sign of continuing dialogue between Catholic leaders and the Raul Castro government, the country's first seminary in 50 years will be inaugurated on Nov. 3.

The opening of the new seminary in Havana is expected to be attended by Cuban President Raul Castro. Noting the “positive disposition” of Castro towards the Church, the rector of the new seminary, Antonio Rodriguez said, “He knows what this project means to us.” 

Church leaders have taken a more significant role in mediating with the communist regime this year, especially since Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana negotiated the release of several political prisoners.

The newly-released dissidents were then immediately transferred to Spain.

For a long time, Rodriguez said, the construction of a seminary was “unthinkable.”

“Without a doubt this increases the visibility of the Church.  We need to look upon this with hope,” he said.

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Bishops of Spain send letter of condolence to Archbishop of Baghdad

Madrid, Spain, Nov 3, 2010 (CNA/Europa Press) - The president of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, has sent a letter of condolence to the Syriac Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad, Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka, after the Oct. 31 massacre that took place in the city's cathedral.

Gunmen entered the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation during Sunday Mass on Oct. 31. The attackers took the congregation of 120 hostage before killing 58, including two priests.

“We wish to convey our deepest condolences and assure our solidarity in prayer to you, beloved  brother, and to all the faithful of the Church over which you preside, especially the family members of the deceased and those wounded,” Cardinal  Rouco Varela wrote.

“The Catholic communities of Spain offer their prayers to the Lord for the prompt recovery of those affected and for the implementation of security measures that will allow the Christian communities of Iraq to fully exercise their right to religious freedom and live in peace,” the cardinal said.

Pope Benedict also expressed his sadness for the violent tragedy in a message to the archbishop on  Nov. 2.

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Iraqi Christians asking hard questions after shocking cathedral attack

Detroit, Mich., Nov 3, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - “It is only speculation,” Fr. Safaa Habash said, “an opinion.” Still, he couldn't help but wonder about the timing of the October 31 attack that killed or wounded most of the 120 worshipers at Baghdad's Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation.

The attack came one week after the end of a historic gathering of Middle Eastern bishops in Rome. It was the worst violence against Christians in Iraq, since war came to their country in 2003.

“The Synod of Bishops called on the Christians and Muslims to come together to make a dialogue, and to open bridges between each community,” the Iraqi-born, Michigan-based Syriac Catholic priest recounted.

“But those people,” he said in reference to the terrorists, “they try to give a response to that Synod of Bishops … ” Fr. Safaa went on to describe the attackers as “brainwashed”-- “mercenaries” with “no principles.” One of the suicide attackers, he had heard, was about twelve years old.

The expatriate priest was thousands of miles away when the Baghdad cathedral was attacked. But he spoke from his experience with the kind of men who carry out these attacks. He described how groups of Islamic militants “want to disturb the relationship between Muslims and Christians … They want to divide Iraq into different factions, and try to disturb everything. They try to delay the political process, and cause Christians to flee Iraq.”

It remained unclear, as of November 2, what particular motive had prompted the cathedral attack—whether it was simply a backlash against the synod, a sectarian show of brute force, or retaliation for the unusual grievances cited by an al-Qaida-linked Iraqi group this week. The group Islamic State of Iraq took responsibility for the devastating assault, claiming to avenge women who had allegedly converted to Islam and consequently been kidnapped by Christian monks in Egypt.

Fr. Safaa didn't know what exactly had driven the killers. But he was all too aware what they had done.

“They entered the Church and they killed the two priests, they injured the other, and they killed most of the people in the Church. More than 50 people were killed … Today (Nov. 2) they buried the bodies of all 50 people who were killed, the priests also, in Baghdad and Mosul. In my town, they buried about seven.”

When CNA reached Fr. Safaa, he had been looking at pictures arriving from home. “Very sad, and unspeakable, inexpressible images of those victims.” One of his brother priests, a man he knew, “shot, bullets in his head.” Young people and their parents, incinerated among the toppled pews.

Groups of militants, he said, are “working out of their enmity against the Christian communities” and  trying “to kill the thriving Christianity in Iraq.” He said persecution had reached the level of “genocide”-- and the attack on Our Lady of Salvation signified that it wasn't letting up.

“That church was one of the prominent churches in Baghdad. It was at the heart of Baghdad, it was in one of the safe neighborhoods. It was near the Green Zone, and it was (protected).” Somehow, the church's armed guards and barbed wire had failed to defend against a small group of heavily armed men, wearing explosive belts they later detonated as police arrived.

Fr. Safaa wondered whether the prominent church might have fallen victim to the type of ploy that has enabled deadly attacks against the government: “I mean, was there any infiltration?”

Many Iraqis, however, aren't trying to explain Sunday's massacre. They're simply wondering whether they can remain in their country at all.

Fr. Safaa serves a community that has chosen, for the time being, to seek refuge in America. But he agreed with the message of the Synod for the Middle East, that those who remain are bearing critical witness.

“We always ask our people to stick to their land,” he said. “We don't have to withdraw, and we don't have to flee, we don't have to evacuate Iraq.” He acknowledged that there would most likely be “a wave of immigration, now, because of what has happened” at Our Lady of Salvation.

“But I do hope that Christianity will not disappear in Iraq.”

“Our Church was established upon the martyrs,” he stressed. “There were many martyrs-- in the Syriac Church, in the Chaldean Church, the whole Church in Iraq … we don't lose sight that we are the Church of Martyrs.” Fr. Safaa said that he believed Iraq's Christian roots, strengthened by a history of sacrifice, ran too deep to be lost altogether.

“The Christians in Iraq, and the religious leaders, they are determined to remain in that country … they are involved in reconstructing and rebuilding Iraq. The Christians, they are professionals, there are so many doctors, engineers.”

Fr. Safaa said that his country's present and immediate future looks bleak. He noted that democracy did not seem to be taking root, instead giving way to a sectarian civil war.

Yet from the perspective of faith, he remained hopeful, maintaining his belief that the Christians of Iraq can be witnesses for peace.

“Priests, religious centers, monasteries—they can teach. They can teach the language of peace, the language of love, the language of justice. And I think that their presence is important for the future of Iraq.”

“I would say that we have a hope—that we will see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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Chaplains opposed to 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' repeal coming under pressure

Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2010 (CNA) - A federal court has again reinstated the U.S. military’s policy against open homosexuals in service. While military chaplains are “hopeful” the policy will stay in place, some have been told they should “just get out” if the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is repealed.

On Monday two of the three judges on the panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals halted a judge’s order which forbade the enforcement of the U.S. military’s policy against open homosexuals in the armed forces.

The judges in the majority said they agreed with the U.S. Department of Justice that a federal district court judge’s global injunction against the policy “will seriously disrupt ongoing and determined efforts by the Administration to devise an orderly change” if such a change will happen.

The case will be “moot” if the administration persuades Congress to eliminate the policy, the two judges added. They said four other federal appeals courts’ decisions cast doubt on whether the lower court judge exceeded her authority and ignored existing legal precedents.

District Court Judge Virginia Phillips had ruled that homosexuals could not serve in the military without having their First Amendment Rights breached.

President Barack Obama has opposed the policy and has worked to end it legislatively. The Log Cabin Republicans, a homosexual group, has been trying to overturn the policy through the federal judiciary.

CNA spoke about the ruling with Daniel Blomberg of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which is working with retired military chaplains opposed to repealing the policy.

He called Monday’s ruling a “very good” decision that protects the religious rights of those in service, but he warned of the consequences of a repeal.

“The chaplains are very hopeful that military will continue to maintain the policy which protects both soldiers and soldiers’ religious liberties,” he explained.

While the chaplains’ opposition to the policy change includes concerns with issues like military readiness, their specific concern is that religious faith “will be discriminated against in favor of the new political correctness that will be imposed by the Obama administration,” Blomberg added.

Asked about reports that active chaplains can be accused of insubordination if they publicly oppose changes to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the ADF attorney said that the servicemen have been informed through their chain of command that “they should not be commenting on this at this time.”

“One chaplain stood up in a high-level meeting created precisely for the purpose of getting service members’ thoughts on the repeal of the policy. And he asked ‘What should chaplains do? What should people of faith do if this policy changes and we have problems of conscience with how it’s going to affect us?’” Blomberg said.

“That individual was told by a high-ranking member of the panel that they should just get out of the military.”

Blomberg noted this chaplain’s experience bore similarities to a Washington Times report that Army Lt. General Thomas Bostick compared opposition to allowing open homosexuals in the military to opposition to racial integration. The ADF attorney also acknowledged that the army has disputed the accuracy of the Times report.

However, such sentiments are also found in proponents of homosexuals openly serving in the military such as Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

"My heart doesn't bleed for these chaplains," he told the Associated Press in a story on the chaplains’ concerns. "If you don't like it, there's a very simple solution: Fold your uniform, file the paperwork and find something else to do."

Blomberg reported that congressional opponents of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy have added non-discrimination regulations to the relevant bill. The original language would treat homosexuality under “a form of class protection like you would see for race or sex.”

Because chaplains have officer proficiency reports like any other officer, they will be judged on whether they are complying with the equal protection goals of the military.

If the policy is repealed, Blomberg explained, “one of those goals will be being supportive of the military’s mission of incorporating and supporting homosexual behavior in the military.”

“The concern of the chaplains is if they counsel, if they preach, if they do their ethical teaching duties,  and indicate that homosexual behavior is not good, or is a form of sin, then they would be treated as if they had said being black is sinful, or being a woman is wrong. That would be viewed as on that same level of discrimination.”

Blomberg deemed the proposed change to be “very far reaching.”

Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy J. Broglio has opposed repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." In an interview with CNA last month, he warned of a “latent” danger to religious liberty in the agenda advanced by some people in the name of tolerance.

“(T)here is an agenda to force everyone to accept as normal and positive behavior that is contrary to the moral norms of many religions, including the Catholic Church,” he commented, voicing concern that teaching morality or forming young people in their faith could be misconstrued as intolerance.

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Catholic Charities honors bishops with commemorative medal

Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2010 (CNA) - At Catholic Charities USA’s recent 100th anniversary celebration, the group honored several Catholic leaders with specially commissioned Centennial Medals, noting the individuals’ commitment to the mission of the organization.

Last month, the group held its Centennial Gathering in Washington D.C. and recognized several prominent Catholic figures for sharing the vision of the charitable agency. 

Recipients of the Centennial Medal included Cardinal Francis George, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Bishop William Skylstad, Catholic Charities USA Episcopal Liaison from 2000-2002; as well as Bishop Michael Driscoll, Catholic Charities USA Episcopal Liaison from 2002 to the present.

Other groups honored by Catholic Charities USA were Caritas Internationalis and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican organization which oversees the Church's charitable activities throughout the globe.

The Sept. 25-28 celebration included several noted events, such as an opening liturgy celebrated by Cardinal Francis George, a keynote address by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, talks from international Catholic leaders, a gala concert, and a day spent on Capitol Hill in dialogue with congressional staff.

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